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Cancer Nutrition

The role of diet in cancer prevention and management


By Chesire Que ,RND, RN, RD



In 2020, approximately 15 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed, 12 million of which will lead to death as predicted by F. Brayand and B. Moller in their research on Predicting The Future Burden of Cancer.

The cause of cancer is multifaceted, which includes both internal and environmental or acquired factors. Genetics, hormones, and immune conditions are considered internal factors. Acquired and environmental factors include diet, use of tobacco, exposure to radiation, toxins, and infectious microorganisms.

While some causes of cancer cannot be modified, lifestyle related risks and causes such as diet, alcohol, and tobacco use can be addressed to prevent the development of cancer. Numerous studies have shown that diet, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are highly associated with various cancers that account for approximately 30 to 35 percent of cancer deaths.

“Eating right can lower your chance of developing cancer. Before and after chemotherapy, the best nutrition will give the body time to heal, recover, and manage symptoms and side effects.” according to associate professor and president of Nutritionist Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines, Zenaida F. Velasco MAP, RND.

In a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, obesity has been linked to increased mortality from the following types of cancer: colon, breast cancer among postmenopausal women, endometrium, kidney, esophagus, gastric cardia, pancreas, prostate, gallbladder, and liver. The burden of obesity and cancer can be addressed with lifestyle modification.

“A third of cancer deaths can be prevented with a healthy diet and weight coupled with exercise,” advised professor Velasco. She emphasized that a good diet offers at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. These are food sources of fiber and antioxidants.

Several studies have proven the chemopreventive effects of phytochemicals derived from fruits and vegetables. These phytochemicals are safe. The major chemopreventive compounds from fruits and vegetables are carotenoids, vitamins, resveratrol, quercetin, silymarin, sulphoraphane, and indole-3-carbinol.

If fruits and vegetables are a must in cancer prevention, some food must be limited or avoided. “Limit the consumption of red and processed meats and even alcohol. Slow down on sugar, sweetened beverages, food with transfat such as fries and margarine using hydrogenated oils,” added professor Velasco.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers processed meat as a cause of cancer and red meat as a probable cause of cancer. The risk of bowel cancer is increased by 17 percent for every 100g of red meat consumed per day. It is also increased by 18 percent for every 50g of processed meat intake per day.

Dr. Alison Steiber, chief science officer of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteics, USA, will be sharing more on the advances in nutritional oncology on the 64th NDAP Convention on Feb. 21 to 22 at Conrad Hotel Manila. The incidence of cancer is rapidly increasing. It is vital to take action in preventing cancer by equipping ourselves with evidence-based principles in diet and cancer prevention. Learn to read food labels and avoid fad dieting. Be physically active. If you are a smoker, consult your doctor on how to help you successfully quit. Take action now before it’s too late.

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